AgriLife Extension experts: Hurricane Sandy reminder to prepare for natural disasters

COLLEGE STATION – Hurricane Sandy’s landfall should be a reminder to Texans that it’s not a matter of if, but when, a similar disaster might again affect the Lone Star State, said experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Even though Sandy hit close to the generally recognized end of hurricane season, this has still shown just how inconvenient, dangerous and devastating a natural disaster can be,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension director for homeland security and emergency management at Texas A&M University, College Station. “We want to remind Texans that AgriLife Extension has many no-cost disaster and emergency materials available to them.”

Vestal, said agency materials relating to disasters and emergencies are available in print, online as downloadable publications and in e-book format.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has a variety of no-cost emergency and disaster preparation and recovery materials available in print and as online downloads and in e-book format. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“For the convenience of Texas residents, we have converted many of our hurricane preparedness materials to e-book format,” he said. “We did this as a result of actions by AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Research incident response team members engaged in a statewide Mobile Device initiative. Materials may be downloaded to any mobile device supporting the e-book format, including phones, tablets and e-readers.”

He said the e-book format is also supported by iPhone and Droid mobile applications through the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, or Texas EDEN.

Vestal said the Texas EDEN site, http://texashelp.tamu.edu, has information and materials on specific disasters, including drought, hurricanes and wildfire, as well as information on disaster preparation and recovery. He said the AgriLife Bookstore website, http://agrilifebookstore.org, has a variety of emergency and disaster-related materials, including publications on general preparedness, first aid and home, property and financial recovery.

“We support educating people about disaster and emergency preparedness and make a special point to try and further increase awareness during National Preparedness Month efforts each September,” said Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension family development and resource specialist in College Station. “Our goal is to increase public awareness on how to protect against, prepare for and recover from an emergency or disaster. We have several publications, many of them available in Spanish, which can help see people through an emergency or natural disaster.”

Cavanagh said she hopes Texans will take this time to reflect and look into actions on how they might protect themselves, their families and their businesses in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. She noted the comprehensive AgriLife Extension and Texas Department of State Health Services co-authored publication “Preparing for the Unexpected” is among those available on both websites and that a PDF version may be downloaded free of charge.

“There are numerous considerations before, during and after an emergency or disaster, and each disaster has its own unique personality and set of challenges,” she said. “Families should map out an evacuation plan ahead of time and practice it. They should also have an emergency kit for their home, office and each vehicle, and definitely should know where to go in case of an emergency.”

She said an evacuation plan should address escape routes, utility shutoff and safety information, family communication and protecting important documents.
“An emergency kit should contain enough supplies to take care of the immediate family for at least three days,” she said. “Some essential kit contents she identified included water, non-perishable foods, a hand-operated can opener, mouth/nose protection masks, extra clothing, a first-aid kit, gloves, blankets, toiletries, a battery- or hand-powered flashlight, a weather radio, spare batteries, garbage bags, medications and anti-bacterial cleaners or wipes.”

There are also numerous safety issues that arise when returning to a home or business after a disaster, including possible structural damage, damage to electrical wires or gas lines and the risk of contaminated water, she said.

“After surviving a disaster, people should also be aware of the new dangers that crop up and take the necessary safety measures to ensure they survive the recovery phase too,” Cavanagh said.

For more information, go to the AgriLife Bookstore or Texas EDEN website. Additional information on preparedness may be found at FEMA’s http://ready.gov website or its Spanish-language counterpart, http://listo.gov.

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